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US fortune hunter charged with series of crimes in several countries after extradition from Ukraine: Federal authorities

US News

A U.S. Army veteran turned soldier of fortune is facing murder and fraud charges in connection with a series of crimes across three states after he was extradited from Ukraine by the FBI, federal prosecutors announced Monday.

Craig Austin Lang, 34, who fought as a mercenary in Venezuela, Africa and Ukraine, made his first appearance in federal court. He and his accomplices are accused of committing a double murder in Florida and forging passports in Arizona and North Carolina before fleeing abroad, federal prosecutors said.

“Lang's alleged conduct is shocking in its magnitude and callous disregard for human life,” Nicole Argentieri, deputy assistant attorney for the Justice Department's Criminal Division, said in a statement.

“However, his misconduct was no match for the efforts of dedicated law enforcement officials and prosecutors in the United States and abroad,” Argentieri said.

34-year-old Craig Austin Lang is said to have committed a double murder in Florida. ukr-leaks

Prosecutors allege that Lang and fellow Army officer Alex Jared Zwiefelhofer placed an online ad for the sale of a stash of weapons in April 2018 – but they killed the couple who responded to the ad and stole the $3,000 they needed to make the purchase.

The 27-year-old Zwiefelhofer told investigators that he met Lang in Ukraine in 2017 when both were fighting against Russian separatists. He wanted to use the stolen money to travel to Venezuela to fight against the controversial regime there, according to the public prosecutor's office.

Zwiefelhofer was found guilty by a jury in federal court in Florida in March and is scheduled to be sentenced on August 6.

Lang forged passports in Arizona and North Carolina before fleeing abroad. ukr-leaks
“Lang's alleged conduct is shocking in its magnitude and callous disregard for human life,” Nicole Argentieri, deputy assistant attorney for the Justice Department's Criminal Division, said in a statement. babel.ua

In September 2018, Lang and another accomplice allegedly made a deal with two others in North Carolina to use their identities to forge U.S. passports in exchange for $1,500 in cash and a suitcase “containing multiple firearms” and a military-grade smoke grenade, federal authorities said.

Then, in June 2019, prosecutors alleged that Lang used a U.S. passport to obtain a Mexican visa, which violates the conditions for holding a U.S. passport.

Alex Zwiefelhofer, 27, told investigators he met Lang in Ukraine in 2017 when both were fighting against Russian separatists. ukr-leaks

Lang was arrested in Ukraine and extradited to the United States after the European Court of Human Rights rejected his appeal. He was returned under FBI guard.

If Lang is found guilty of the Florida murders, he faces life in prison. If he is found guilty of the North Carolina and Arizona murders, he faces up to 35 years in prison, the Justice Department said.

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